Welcome to April! This month’s challenge takes place in your pantry…
April goal: To preserve some fresh, local produce for the depths of winter
For the month of April, we’re going to focus on the wealth of produce that comes along at the start of autumn. This time of year provides an exceptional opportunity to visit your local farmers market and reap the benefits of New Zealand’s agricultural delights. Coming into season now are autumn fruits like apples and pears and fall veggies like pumpkins, brussel sprouts and cabbage. Additionally, some last tastes of summer remain including plums, raspberries and tomatoes. So there’s no time like the present to get preserving and bottle those summer and autumn flavors to enjoy during the upcoming chilly winter days.
While we are lucky to have access to some locally-grown fresh veg year round, the pickings at the farmers markets do get quite lean in the winter months. Preserving the harvest allows you to eat ‘local’ for longer than you might be able to otherwise. And the basics aren’t hard to master. At its simplest, food preservation can be freezing fresh sliced fruits. Freezing in one layer on a baking sheet before packing into containers allows you to take out just a few slices at a time to add to yoghurt, porridge or salads. Pickled veggies are also a great place to start –just slice up the vegetable of your choice, add some spices, make a brine and jar it up. Check out this guide to quick pickling vegetables for a recipe that can be adjusted to match your tastes. Jams are also a good food preservation entry point – especially as a first processed-jar experiment. Try this recipe which works with whatever fruit is currently in season. Even if it doesn’t set as desired, the preserved fruit will still great with waffles, ice cream or yoghurt. For first-time canners (or old hands who need a refresher) check out this general guide to preserving for tips on jar sterilization methods and hot water processing. Alternately, fire up your oven and dry some fruit slices under low heat.
Whatever method you choose, the idea is to try something new this month and see if it works for you. As adding friends and family for support always helps both increase encouragement and lighten the load, have a canning party and bottle up some fruit and veggies with loved ones! Any way you preserve is a step in the right direction. And don’t forget to share a favourite recipe or method with us here at OSOF!
How to participate:
Choose the level below that works for you, and don’t forget to upload a picture of yourself in action preserving or storing some fresh local produce! Include the hashtag #OSOFSustainableMe and you’ll be in to win a set of 5 reusable produce bags (size large) from Rethink. We would also love to hear your tricks and tips for food preservation and hear how this month’s challenge did or didn’t work for you. Post in the comments below, find us on Facebook or Instagram. Please share your experiences with the Plastic Free NZ community so we can all learn from each other. All entries for the month of April are due by 12:01am on May 1 2017 to be eligible for the prizegiving. Check out our official rules here.
Here’s what to do:
Beginner: Just freeze something. This is the easiest way to preserve fresh foods. Make a basic freezer jam, or simply slice up some plums and pears and stash them away for a winter’s morning.
Step it up: Get preserving! Try out some pickles or jam through the links provided above and below.
Want more? Go crazy in the kitchen with jams, chutneys, sauces, kimchi and soups. How much can you preserve?
How does it help?
Preserving local produce can help us reduce food waste and minimize packing. A pantry full of preserved produce can cut personal food costs and reduce the number of unknown additives you are eating. Having preserves on hand can also help in an earthquake, storm, or other unexpected emergency by bulking up your household’s emergency food supplies.
Making sure you choose local produce just increases the benefits as you reduce your food miles – the distance your food has to travel to get to your plate. Reducing food miles decreases the amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere – a benefit to the oceans and all living things!
Resources: (Please note, this is not an endorsement of these organizations, stores or products from OSOF, just a suggestion of how to get started)
Bite magazine – Preserving the abundant fruits of autumn
Food preservation basics: Homegrown Kitchen
What’s in season? A guide to NZ produce
Preserving jars are often available secondhand at op shops, or try Briscoes or the Warehouse. You can also order online from Arthur Holmes in Wellington.
A good general guide to preserving vegetables